Matsui’s homer key in Angels 4-2 win
“It might have been front page,” Matsui said about the possible reaction in Japan.
Instead, Suzuki couldn’t quite get his glove on Matsui’s drive, a two-run homer in the seventh inning that propelled the Los Angeles Angels to a 4-2 win over the Mariners on Wednesday night.
Slumping against lefties most of the season—hitting just .203 entering the game—Matsui hit his 18th homer of the season to give the Angels the lead. Matsui now has three career hits off Vargas and all three are homers.
“He’s the type of pitcher that pitches well to both sides of the plate. The pitches I’ve hit against him were basically mistake pitches that really caught the big part of the plate,” Matsui said through an interpreter. “I was just able to put a good swing on those pitches.”
After watching Seattle center fielder Franklin Gutierrez(notes) rob Howie Kendrick(notes) of a homer an inning earlier, the entire Angels dugout watched with a little trepidation as Suzuki climbed the right-field fence.
“You never know. They’ve got an athletic outfield and Ichiro has done it before,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “It was close.”
Matsui’s homer helped make a winner out of Trevor Bell(notes), who picked up his first win of 2010 as a starter. Bell (2-4) threw six innings and gave up nine hits but just two runs against the Mariners punchless offense.
Hard-throwing righty Jordan Walden(notes) took over in the seventh and hit 100 mph several times on the stadium radar gun, giving up just Suzuki’s 50th infield single of the season. Kevin Jepsen(notes) rebounded from his blown save loss a night earlier by striking out a pair in the eighth and Fernando Rodney(notes) pitched the ninth for his eighth save in 11 chances.
Matsui had walked and grounded out in his previous two at-bats against Vargas.
Vargas’ 0-1 fastball was waist high and Matsui didn’t miss. He previously homered off Vargas in July 2009 in New York while still playing for the Yankees and earlier this season in Seattle.
Vargas (9-8) gave up just four hits in seven innings, pitching at least six innings for the ninth time in his last 11 starts. He struck out four and walked two.
“I’m frustrated. I feel like I’m smarter than that. He is definitely a guy that can change the game,” Vargas said. “I was trying to throw it in to have him swing at it. That is a spot we have pitched him earlier this year and he hasn’t got to it. In a big situation he did.”
Gutierrez drove in the Mariners’ first run with an RBI single in the third. His double-play grounder scored another in the fifth for a 2-1 lead.
But it was his catch in the sixth that grabbed everyone’s attention. With two outs, Kendrick hit a drive about 400 feet. Gutierrez never slowed his stride, sprinting all the way to the warning track and then timing his jump to snag the drive just above the yellow line at the top of the wall. Vargas tipped his cap, while many of the sparse crowd at Safeco Field gave Gutierrez a standing ovation.
Bell became a starter for the Angels in late July, while still mixing in appearances out of the bullpen. Wednesday was his sixth start and backed up the promise the Angels saw in his last start when Bell went seven innings and gave up just two runs in a loss to Baltimore.
Bell struck out six and walked none in his seven innings. More important, he escaped jams with runners in scoring position in four of the first five innings. Seattle left eight on base.
“They definitely had some opportunities and he made some pitches to get out,” Scioscia said. “He showed us a lot out there. He bent a little bit but didn’t break.”
NOTES: The Angels are now 12-4 against Seattle this season and went 7-2 at Safeco Field. … Gutierrez made another fine running catch at the wall in the ninth inning on Mike Napoli’s(notes) drive. … Seattle has extended its minor league agreements with Double-A West Tenn and Pulaski in the rookie Appalachian League.